When Bruce Rauner contributed more than $250,000 of his own money to his campaign for governor, it eliminated restrictions on the amount of money people could donate to his campaign or the campaigns of his competitors. In other words, a fundraising free-for-all.
And a Tribune review of donors who have given $100,000 or more shows that the money race thus far boils down to organized labor versus Chicago's corporate elite.
So far, only one person has donated $100,000 or more to Gov. Pat Quinn: William Brandt Jr., a bankruptcy expert and chairman of the Illinois Finance Authority. Brandt and Quinn have been friends since they were teenagers at Fenwick High School in Oak Park.
In December, Quinn hauled in more than $450,000 from political funds affiliated with national unions based in Washington, D.C., or Maryland: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ($150,000); the United Association, a labor union of plumbers and pipe fitters ($100,000); the International Union of Painters and Affiliated Trades ($100,000); and the Laborers' International Union of North America ($130,600).
The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, which represents crane and heavy-equipment operators in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana, donated $250,000 to Quinn on Jan. 7 through its political action committee. The Lakemoor-based local has contributed significantly to Republicans, including more than $60,000 to Judy Baar Topinka during her failed gubernatorial bid against Rod Blagojevich in 2006.
Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher tied the union's support for Quinn to the $29 billion public works program state lawmakers passed in 2009 at the height of the recession. The local's approximately 23,000 members would help build those roads, bridges and public buildings.
Quinn "was meeting late at night with legislative leaders, shuttling back and forth to get it done," Maher said. "You don't see states pass bills like that. … Gov. Quinn understood that hundreds of thousands of people would be put to work and that you have to have a sound infrastructure to support business, to give business a way to move product."
A who's who of business leaders has lined up behind Rauner, who faces a four-way primary with state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard. Rauner, a former chairman of Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR, has cultivated his top donors through longtime friendships as well as business deals and his advocacy for charter schools. The "R" in GTCR stands for Rauner.
Those who have donated $100,000 or more to Rauner include billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin ($250,000); billionaire Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto, who said he met Rauner in the 1980s when he briefly worked at Golder Thoma & Co., now GTCR ($105,300); Edgar "Ned" Jannotta Jr., who said he first met Rauner in 1985 when they worked together at GTCR ($105,300); Michael Keiser, who made his money selling recycled greeting cards and said he met Rauner through the charter school movement ($105,300); Glen Tullman, a venture capitalist and veteran entrepreneur, who previously led Allscripts and is chairman of Argo Tea ($255,300); Richard Uihlein, co-founder and CEO of Uline, which sells shipping supplies and moved its headquarters from Illinois to Wisconsin in 2010 ($255,300); MacLean-Fogg Co., a Mundelein-based manufacturer ($110,000); and Elizabeth Christie, a former chief executive of Avent Ltd. (now Philips Avent), a designer and manufacturer of baby feeding products ($105,300).
That totals about $1.29 million and does not include large contributions to the political action committee Rauner formed to push for term limits for state lawmakers. Uihlein donated an additional $250,000 to that fund; billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell contributed $100,000 through a trust; and Philadelphia-based real estate investor Howard Rich donated $251,000.
Griffin, Zell, Rich and Uihlein are regular contributors to Republicans. Other names on the list, however, were unexpected. Tullman, for instance, said he remains a "strong supporter" of President Barack Obama and considers himself a "conservative Democrat."
"I think there's an opportunity for the state to make a shift in direction, and we need somebody in the governor's role who's been in business and who understands what it's like to build businesses and create employment," Tullman said.
Tullman's connections to Rauner involve more than their shared fiscal conservatism. He and Rauner have co-invested in one or two startups, and Stanley Golder, the "G" in GTCR, invested in Tullman and his brother Howard's first business, CCC Information Services, Glen Tullman said.
"In the business community, Bruce is very well-known," Tullman said. "So I've gotten to know Bruce. I would consider him a friend."
Christie, who lives in Chicago, is a newcomer to top donor lists. She said she eschewed politics until the 2008 presidential campaign and later met Rauner through her fundraising efforts on behalf of the Republican National Committee. Christie has since donated nearly $600,000 to Republican candidates and groups at the federal and state level, according to campaign finance records.
"I wasn't really happy with the presidential election that year," she said. "I started (getting involved) at the national level and then drilled down" to the state and local level.
It also remains unusual to see a company, MacLean-Fogg, even one that is family-owned and privately held, appear on a campaign contribution list. The company makes components, such as locknuts and fasteners, for trucks, cars and the aerospace industry, as well as components for utility and telecommunications systems. Barry MacLean is MacLean's president and CEO; he and members of his family also personally donated to Rauner's campaign.
"I think, more broadly, Bruce represents one of the last hopes we have for Illinois to work at these fiscal, not issues, but crises," Keiser said. "I think of public employees as the 'haves' of current Illinois society and the 'have-nots' as the private-sector taxpayers. And Bruce represents the have-nots."
Chicago tourism officials are planning a massive party in Austin, Texas, at this year's SXSW Music Festival to promote Chicago as a destination for musicians, filmmakers and startups.
"This is not going to be your usual trade show booth," said Melissa Cherry, vice president of cultural tourism and neighborhoods at Choose Chicago, the city's not-for-profit tourism and convention bureau. "We're going to put Chicago out there in a big way, given this is our first time out" at SXSW.
On the agenda for March 11: an invitation-only party from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by an official SXSW showcase featuring several Chicago bands, including Chance The Rapper, The Hood Internet, The Autumn Defense, Bonzie, Archie Powell & The Exports, My Gold Mask, ShowYouSuck and Prob Cause. March 11 is the closing night of the technology/interactive portion of the festival and the opening night of the music portion.
Cherry said the city also will have a booth March 9 to 12 designed by Chicago artist Chris Silva, known for his eye-catching, graffiti-inspired murals and street art.
"The whole concept is Chicago-made — things that are purely Chicago, made in Chicago and making things in Chicago," Cherry said.
The effort is a partnership among Choose Chicago, World Business Chicago, the Illinois Office of Tourism and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. They are soliciting corporate sponsors to help defray costs. Organizers hope Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Choose Chicago Chairman Desiree Rogers will fly to Austin to attend, but they are not confirmed.
"Everything at SXSW happens quickly, in a short period of time," Cherry said. "So we are still in the stage of finalizing everything."
The budget for Choose Chicago rose by more than half last fiscal year to $27.6 million, thanks to additional city and state funding as well as a relatively new tax on airport taxi rides. Emanuel last week announced he was upping the city's tourism goal to 55 million visitors annually by 2020; 46.3 million visited in 2012.
Chicago is not the first city to have a showcase at the festival. Yet others, such as Boise's, are often organized by bands themselves.